Parking was scarce Friday night for blocks around Union Church as an estimated 800-plus people came together for the SaraCare Celebration.
Since her passing in 2005, friends and family of Sara Elizabeth Kennedy have honored the 17-year-old’s memory through this celebration every year.
It was a night of music, good food and fellowship, said her father Eddie Kennedy, but perhaps most importantly, a night during which thousands of dollars were raised to “continue Sara’s work.”
The SaraCare fund has provided more than $100,000 in support to families of children who are struggling through illnesses, much like what the Kennedys experienced years ago.
Last year, the event raised $12,000 that night. But more than $3,000 in donations trickled in afterward from people who could not attend, Kennedy said.
The total donations should be around the same this year too, he said.
Community support continues to grow each year, and Sara’s story has reached beyond Berea.
Friends from Hollywood to Nashville to Florida filled the pews in the historic church Friday night.
This summer, the Kennedys were asked to film a segment about Sara for the VH1 reality show “Couples Therapy.”
The show’s host, licensed psychotherapist “Dr. Jenn” Berman, flew from Los Angeles to be at SaraCare this year. The show’s producer Damian Sullivan couldn’t make it, but he was with them in spirit and through Facetime on Dr. Jenn’s iPhone and iPad.
“Eddie and Norma, the moment I met them, I fell in love with them,” said Dr. Jenn on stage Friday.
They “took the worst tragedy that could possibly happen to parents, and they used it to inspire all of us,” she said.
Dr. Jenn told the story of one of her fans who tweeted her about “this really beautiful, expensive pair of vegan shoes.”
But instead of purchasing the shoes, the fan told Dr. Jenn she wanted to take that money and donate it to SaraCare.
What Kennedy calls his “Nashville crowd” captivated the audience with country and gospel favorites, some of which were written by the songwriters in the group.
One songwriter, Doug Johnson, has been attending SaraCare for years. Nearing the end of his set, and as in years past, Johnson performed a song he wrote that is unofficially named “Sarabeth.” This chart-topping song has striking parallels to Sara Kennedy’s story although it was not written about her.
The song’s music video, performed by Rascal Flatts, can be viewed online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v= JhnU9IYTD9c.
And to their surprise, Johnson also performed a song he wrote just for the Kennedys called “Butterfly in a Hurricane.”
“He just sprung that on us,” Norma Kennedy said. “I cried the rest of the concert, but it was a good cry.”
Among the “Nashville crowd” was up-and-coming talent Molly Hunt who performed several of her own songs. Hunt has been working with Johnson, who also is a producer, Eddie Kennedy said.
Several local talents graced the stage throughout the night as well.
To donate to SaraCare, checks can be sent to The SaraCare Fund, P.O. Box 1292, Berea, KY 40403. To find out more, visit www.saracare.org.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.